It’s finished! For the last 7 months I have been working on a Zoo playmat for Alayna and the final finishes were completed on Saturday.
Back in my long distant past I use to do a lot of crafts; sewing, knitting, cross stitch, making teddy bears and other bits and pieces. For various reasons I stopped doing any crafts about 10 years ago. When I was pregnant with Alayna and in nesting mode, I started to feel like I should be making her things rather than buying everything. These thoughts were also triggered by Mum knitting up a storm (producing lovely cardies etc), Dad building a beautiful crib and my good friend Pauline making a cool bird mobile.
With baby steps, I dug out my old cross stitch supplies to see if this craft thing would take again. I managed to complete 3 small cross stitch critters without too much hassle. Not a bad start. Brendon then suggested I make some bunting for Alayna’s room, so the sewing machine was dusted off. Then patterns for funky soft toys were found. Lets just say that I kept myself occupied, while on maternity leave, waiting for our bundle of joy to arrive.
Mum was also staying with us while waiting for Alayna’s arrival. While I was sewing Mum kept herself amused with knitting, also branching out into knitted cats. We had a habit of feeding each others creative habit and soon found ourselves looking for the next project. Mum was searching for knitted animals (with me looking over her shoulder) and found a pattern book for crochet zoo animals that we both really liked, but neither of us really crochet. The next day I was having another good hunt around for knitted animals and stumbled across a free pattern for a playmat (you’ll need to sign up for an account and then navigate to the Freebies page and find the pattern) to go with the crochet a zoo book we found. Well, that did it, we both just loved the whole idea, so the book was purchased.
Originally I suggested Mum make the blanket, since wool was more her domain and she had some crochet experience. Plus I was about to have a baby, who knew how much free time I would have in the future! After a while, the idea of tackling the playmat myself grew and grew, until I decided to give it a go. So, back in late October I ordered the yarn (nearly 3 kg for the playmat and some animals!) from the UK (sad to say, but it was so much cheaper to buy from the UK than NZ even with postage) and I started to learn how to crochet. The book had pretty good instructions, but watching videos on YouTube helped a great deal.
My aim was to complete it by Christmas (always need a deadline!). I worked out how many rows I needed to complete on average per day and fitted in the crochet around Alayna sleeping. In the early days this was sometimes with her cuddled up to me, and while the blanket was small enough not to disturb her. As the blanket grew and Alayna grew (and was more easily disturbed), I could only work at night while she was tucked up in bed.
Christmas came and went, so her 6 month birthday was the new deadline. I actually completed the crochet before the 6 month deadline, but didn’t realise how long it would take me to hand sew all the landscape items onto the playmat; I estimated a week, it took me over a month.
My friend Pauline came to visit while I was busy sewing and suggested a quilt back. No no, I can’t do that. Hmm, maybe. OK, why not. After all I taught myself to crochet, surely I can give quilting a go.
Then started the research; I needed to learn about quilting, how to attach to the crochet blanket, a suitable pattern, and find some fabric. Lucky there is a whole lot of information out there for quilting and others have figured out how to join fabric to blankets, so I started figuring it all out.
Due to the dimensions I required I couldn’t find a suitable pattern, so I played with a grid (in Excel, alas nothing more suitable at home) to design one myself. I decided to use a Jelly Roll for the quilt design, since I had no experience in cutting to the accuracy required for quilting. I then found a range of fabric called Giraffe Crossing, which pretty well suited the colours of the playmat while also having highly suitable content. Time to order fabric from the US (again it appears to be cheaper to buy abroad rather than NZ, postage is expensive but still cheap if you buy enough, so added a few more nice fabrics for good measure).
Planning, researching and designing the quilt took much longer than actually sewing it. Finally I just needed to assemble it, by tying all the layers together and then hand sewing the edges around the border. Final step was to hand sew the sign, which was embroidered by a local company, and then it was all done.
I am pleased that I decided to add a quilt back to the playmat; the playmat now feels more substantial and solid and as a extra bonus it helps the wool to keep shape.
Now I just need to fill the zoo with some animals. These can be gradually added over the next few years!